how working with people with disabilities pulled me out of my funk

Let’s travel a couple of months back to May. I was moody, unhappy, walking around the streets of downtown like a sad cliché. Granted, I always walk around downtown like a cliché, but during these times I truly felt miserable. My job was unstable and fading, my personal life in shambles, and my birthday month just reminded me of how little I’ve accomplished in my life. Quitting my job and not finding one right away send me down a Lana Del Rey-esque state of depression. It’s amazing to see how different things are now. In just a couple of months, and with the help of some incredible individuals, I was able to get my life back on track.

When I came across an opportunity to work with patients with disabilities, I merely saw it as a much-needed paycheck. I can now admit that I didn’t fully know what the job was about until I went to the job interview. Once I aced that interview, I got on board with the job; it seemed easy, convenient, I need felt nice to have the perks of a government job. At that moment I could have never guessed that three weeks later I’d be crying in a government-sanctioned truck.

Though the nature of my job is not direct care, I do interact with patients with an extensive array of disabilities for at least three hours a day. I’m talking about over 100 individuals of all ages and ethnicities, both male and female, who allow me to come to their world and try to make it a little easier. Interacting with these individuals allowed me to be more understanding, more patient, and more grateful. Each interaction, however big or small, allowed me to get to know every patient, to get to know their struggles, their progress, and most importantly, the things they like and what I can do to make their lives a bit better. Every time I get to have a little laugh with them or whenever I hear that they ask for me when I’m off, it just makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

It felt nice to finally have a job that was more than just that. Whenever I explain the nature of my job to people, I get the same question: “is it rewarding?” I hesitate to answer it because it makes me feel corny and lame to say it, but it totally is. But not everything was nice and sweet. In these couple of months working there, I’ve already faced some situations where I’ve questioned if this line of work is for me. More specifically, the aforementioned truck-crying incident.

For patient-confidentiality reasons, I can only vaguely say that working closely with these folks made me develop a bond. I want to see them succeed, I want to see them get better, and I want them to have a better quality of life. So when I witnessed a major violent setback, where I could not do anything to alleviate the situation, I was rendered helpless. As I was driving back to my station, I couldn’t help but re-live that scene and tear up at the fact that these people have it hard. They were tears of frustration, tears of wanting to help but not knowing how. Maybe a person as emotional as me should not be working in a place like this.

After thoughtful debate, I concluded that the amount of pride, challenge, and self-realizations that this job was giving me was something I couldn’t quit. In fact, it allowed me to realize that my problem is not that I am too emotional, it is that I want to be able to do more. I am currently considering my options towards obtaining the tools to be of more help. But when I think of how quickly my life changed this year and how much I’ve grown, I can’t help but feeling proud of myself. Working directly with people with disabilities allowed me to explore a side of myself that I didn’t know I had. I now have a clear view of my present, a hopeful look at my future and I’m no longer walking around the streets of downtown like a sad cliché. 

I’m now walking the streets of downtown like a regular cliché.

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